[Empty Bowl Crew]
Every winter, I wonder which sports to play. Last year, after wavering between thirds basketball or thirds squash, I tried out for the squash team and successfully made the cut. I had never played squash before, so I learned, improved, and competed against my friends. I really enjoyed playing, but one big problem was the practice time. Since the Varsity and Junior Varsity squash teams had the priority for practice schedules, my team’s practice time was usually between 6:30 and 8:30 at night. With so much time between the last class of the day and the practice, I had to manage my time wisely and finish my homework and other work before the practice. As it turned out, the plan did not work out as well as I thought, and I had to suffer through the hectic schedule every day.
Looking for something new I can do for this winter, I signed up for the Empty Bowl community service team. Empty Bowl is a community service team that meets five days a week from 4 to 5 P.M, so I thought I was less time-consuming than playing squash late at nights. Though, when I first heard the name, I was not so sure about what kind of work the team does. One of my friends told me during the school meeting that Empty Bowl is like a ceramics class where you make bowls and sell them at the end of the winter. Although I had never taken ceramics class at school before, I decided to give it a try.
Since I joined the team a bit late—because of my indecisiveness—I had to learn fast and start making as many bowls as possible in the given time. Katie Yokum, the ceramics teacher (whom my friends and I call “Kath”), taught me the fundamental steps. It took a while for me even to center the clay and make a small mountain on the pan. Whenever I tried to press down the mountain-shaped clay and start to make a bowl, the bowl would get uneven, eventually collapsing because one side was thicker than the other side. Because I kept failing to do well on the most basic steps, I started to lose confidence and merely sat in my chair, pretending to make a bowl.
Three weeks after I joined the Empty Bowl team, Kath talked to me individually and said that I would have to make a bowl, otherwise she would have to find me a different job. As soon as I heard that, I was scared that I would get cut from the team, and I felt sorry for not fulfilling my job. The next day, Kath gave my friends and me a free day and told us to watch the school games. Even though I thought it was a lucky day to get some rest, I instead invested my time in making the bowl, alone at the studio. Surprisingly, Kath was at the studio as if she was waiting for me; I carefully recalled her instructions and started making a bowl.
[First bowl I have ever made]
Kath merely looked at what I was doing, and it almost felt likeI was going through a test that I must pass in order to remain in the Empty Bowl team.Without my friends’ distractions or chatter, I focused all my attention to my fingertips and the texture of the clay rotating around my palms. After a few minutes, I succeeded in making my first bowl ever, all by myself. Kath was very happy about my work and said “thank you” for coming to the studio to work during the free day. When I heard this compliment, I was more grateful for her patience and effort than she was to me.
Recently, my Empty Bowl team had a very special night. We went around the school campus to find people who could make soup for the Empty Bowl Supper, and more than fifteen teachers volunteered to provide delicious soups. Though my school has been holding the Annual Empty Bowls Supper for about six years, not many people were aware of it. In order to invite as many people as possible to come to the supper, my friends and I made an announcement during the school meeting.
On the day of the Supper, since I had to set up the table, desk, and carefully carry the bowls to the dining hall, I didn't have much time to actually enjoy any of the soup. Not only that, but I was also the cashier, so I had to greet the guests with a huge smile on my face, introduce the bowls that we had made, and sell them for 10 dollars each. The people who bought the bowls enjoyed nearly twenty different soups that the Pomfret School faculty members had made. When my team sold all of the bowls, we raised approximately $1,300 dollars and donated the money to the local food pantry for the homeless.
Starting next Monday, my friends and I will be making bowls for ourselves. This winter felt really short—perhaps because I joined the team late—but I have learned much. Even though I initially thought that joining the Empty Bowl team was a mistake, I have learned that not everything can be achieved so easily, but I just have to keep trying hard.I know the bowl was just a small project, not nearly as difficult as future challenges I will face. But somehow, looking back on this small success helps me believe that I'll be able to succeed in whatever challenges come next.
Youngjae (Aaron) Kim
Youngjae (Aaron) Kim firstname.lastname@example.org
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